July 20, 2024

Dynamics in Family Relationships

Setting Limits with Family

“If there is no struggle there is no progress.” Frederick Douglas

“Hard work pays off in the future. Laziness pays off now.” Anon

Mixing personalities with ups and downs of daily life, family relationships are tough work. Setting limits and sticking to them may be a key to grow loving, caring, and healthy relationships.

The tough part of parenting is often not the giving but rather the restricting. I remember the Time Outs for my son or daughter. Their response was often stomp, stomp, stomp; then annoyed looks when Time Out was over.

Somewhere in the back of my mind I hoped they would say “Thank you. I appreciate the lesson and know the restriction was out of love to help me grow.” Of course it never happened. The restrictions contradict our desire to give to help, not restrict, to help.

When I see a parent involved with an adult child, the parent often thinks that giving more presents, more money, and more physical time is the only way to “help”. Eventually they might feel as if what they do is never enough.

Helping may be saying “No” and sticking to it. This is particularly true with money. The parent may have given money time and again. The receiver’s first response to this gift is often a loving one, a thank you and appreciation. Yet the lesson of how to earn, plan and spend then comes slowly.

The receiver’s expectations just increase in terms of amount and frequency. In these situations, true helping is saying “No.” Sure, remember to also say “I love you” and “good luck” but remember the key is setting the limit and sticking to it. Although the immediate response to “no more” can be the equivalent of stomp, stomp, stomp, the long term benefits can be quite positive. Still this immediate response is not rewarding for the giver of “No.”

In the long run, it’s worth it. Responsible adults are more likely to develop. The relationship may eventually improve when the basis is no longer giving of money or things but rather the deeper appreciation of meaningful connection.